Bannon had a 'slip-up' in House Intelligence answer

Violet Powell
January 18, 2018

US President Trump's former adviser Steve Bannon has refused to answer questions from a congressional committee probing the president's campaign links to Russian Federation, saying he was under orders from the White House not to.

"Mr. Lewandowski said he was not prepared to answer those questions today", said Representative Adam Schiff of California, noting the episode came one day after Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon refused to answer numerous panel's questions because he said the White House may want to assert executive privilege.

Steve Bannon disclosed a confidential conversation he had with senior White House officials regarding a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian actors.

Mr Burck is also representing top White House lawyer Don McGahn in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation. It could also signal that Mueller is seeking to pressure Bannon to agree to an interview with his investigators.

According to author Michael Wolff's book, "Fire & Fury: Inside the Trump White House", Bannon called the Trump Tower meeting "treasonous" and "unpatriotic".

"Sometimes they actually have a White House attorney present in the room", she said.

Committee members were still waiting to hear when Bannon will return for follow-up questioning, as requested by the panel. The official wouldn't say who Burck spoke with in the counsel's office or whether it was his client, McGahn. Bannon's lawyer, the AP reports, was in constant contact with the White House during the interview in an attempt to find out which questions Bannon should answer and which he should avoid.

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After the interview, Democrats and some Republicans ridiculed the White House's claim of broad executive privilege, breaking usual protocol of remaining quiet about closed-door interviews related to the probe and talking freely to reporters afterward. The White House maintains that congressional committees need to go through an accommodation process with the White House Counsel's Office before asking about those periods. He was the latest high-profile figure to appear before the panel as part of its investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the United States election.

Schiff said there was "no appetite" among Republicans on the committee to subpoena Lewandowski as they did with Bannon, though. "Now, as a committee, if we follow the practice that we maintained yesterday, we should have subpoenaed him today and compelled answers to those questions".

The reported subpoena for Mr Bannon does not necessarily mean that he is a target of Mr Mueller's criminal investigation.

News broke during the House Intelligence Committee interview that special counsel Robert Mueller had earlier subpoenaed Bannon to speak before a grand jury, and on Wednesday, CNN reported Bannon had reached an agreement to speak with Mueller's team instead of a grand jury.

Trump was 70 when he took office on January 20, 2017, making him the oldest person ever elected to the presidency.

Moreover, Schiff said Lewandowski would not answer questions about "meetings [or] conversations" that took place after Trump fired him from the campaign in June 2016, saying he was unprepared to answer but would come back to do so.

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